[Side A:]The UtesThe Utes, Colorado's oldest inhabitants, have lived here at least a thousand years, perhaps forever. Certainly they have been here since the state's recorded history began; the earliest Spanish explorers fount them in possession of the Central Rockies in the seventeenth century. They were one of the first tribes to acquire horses, and they used this advantage to broaden their territory and strengthen their claim upon it. By the early eighteenth century the Utes held everything from the Utah deserts to the plains of eastern Colorado. Skilled warriors and formidable defenders, they repelled all intruders until the late 1800s, when the lure of gold and silver brought American settlers in force. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Utes saw their vast domain reduced to two small reservations in Colorado and one in Utah.
Rainbow RouteCompletion of this road opens up a scenic paradise unequalled in any other state of the Union and unsurpassed by the scenic gems of the Wild West.
Governor George A. Carlson on the opening of the Rainbow Route, 1915
Conceived in 1911 to lure automobile tourists to this area, the Rainbow Route cost quite a pot of gold. The dirt-surfaced highway ran from Pueblo to Montrose, following old stagecoach roads and railroad grades much of the way. The twenty-two mile stretch through Bighorn Sheep Canyon, just east of here, was among the most difficult to build. Convict laborers from the state penitentiary in Canyon City had to hack through hard-rock cliffs by hand and cart off the rubble one wheelbarrow-load at a time. The segment opened in 1915, but it was such a rough ride that prudent travelers carried ropes and shovels to dig themselves out of trouble. Six years later the road would reach the Continental Divide atop the 11,386 foot Old Monarch Pass; transcontinental U.S. 50 had incorporated most of the Rainbow Route by the 1950s.
Western Fremont CountyCattle ranchers were among the earliest full-time settlers in this region. They arrived as early as 1870, growing hay and along the fertile banks of the Arkansas River and often training their herds over the ridge to graze in wide-open South Park. In addition to raising livestock, these pioneer ranches often functioned as hotels, stagecoach stops, general stores, and hospitals. They didn't have to go far to find markets for their beef; the mining towns that boomed nearby here were full of hungry customers; and railroad service began after 1880, providing access to far-off cities. It was a profitable business but hardly an easy one; blizzards, droughts, predators, cattle thieves, and collapsing prices all loomed as potential hazards. But while the mines now stand empty and the rail tracks lie dormant, ranching remains the sturdy backbone of Fremont County.
Cotopaxi Jewish ColonyForced from their homes by tsarist oppression, sixty-three Russian Jews arrived in Cotopaxi (about three miles west of here) in April 1882. Their sponsor, local mine magnate Emanuel Saltiel, had promised each family a house, good farmland, and enough seed and equipment to plant crops. But the homes (only twelve in all) were scanty eight-by-eight-foot shacks, and the land was several miles distant, poorly watered, and littered with stone. After a disastrous harvest, many of the colonists spent the winter working for Saltiel, who needed cheap mine laborers (and may have intended all along to use the immigrants for that purpose). Eventually they found work with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and compassionate neighbors helped the colonists through the freezing winter. A failed crop that following year doomed the Cotopaxi Jewish colony. However, most of the twenty-two original families remained in Colorado, founding vibrant Jewish communities throughout the state.